Inventories of unsold vehicles have been essentially flat across the U.S. auto industry in the past year, with one notable exception: General Motors.
GM's inventory as of May 1 reached a 9.5-year high, up 37 percent from a year ago. The inventories of all other automakers combined rose just 0.6 percent.
GM, with U.S. market share of 17.1 percent so far this year, now accounts for 22 percent of total industry inventory. Company executives say the buildup was deliberate in anticipation of multiple plants going offline this fall for retooling, and that supplies will fall to more normal levels by the end of the year.
However, stocks of GM's full-size pickups -- expected to be redesigned next year -- and its four crossovers with redesigns launching this year are responsible for less than half of GM's inventory growth.
With auto sales slowing and discounts already at heights unseen since the recession, GM has waded into territory that could spell trouble if its forecasts prove too optimistic.
"The inventory build leaves some question as to whether GM might see payback later in the year," Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a recent report, "either via higher incentives or production cuts, which would reduce earnings upside."
GM had a 100-day supply of light trucks and 97 days' worth of cars as of May 1. The 934,300 units it had at dealers and in transit was the most since November 2007, a month before the economy officially plunged into a recession.